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Echo chambers, hot tubs, and Heaven's Gateway Drugs
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
Heaven's Gateway Drugs has come a long way since the release of their last album, Apropos. Between that record's release in 2014 to now (2016 for you folks just waking from a two year coma) the band was deconstructed and reconstructed. Derek Mauger and Ben Carr were the two remaining original members left to continue to fly the HGD freak flag high, and they have indeed flown that flag. With the loss of guitarist/singer C. Ray Harvey, bass player Joshua Elias, and drummer Eric Frank, Derek and Ben put together HGD 2.0 like some psychedelic Frankenstein, bringing in bassist Brandon Lee Zolman and drummer James Francis Wadsworth. They hit the road and tightened up as a band and spread the word to hungry ears. In-between gigs and that thing we call life the guys would hit Off The Cuff Sound and work on what would be the re-christening record for Heaven's Gateway Drugs.
Well folks, that record will soon be here. It's called Rubber Nun and it's a scorcher. HGD finally sound like the band they were meant to be. No disrespect to HGD 1.0, but it seems as though the mojo has most definitely been found.
Derek Mauger sat down with me to discuss the record, the band, and their upcoming Middle Waves Festival spot.
EA Poorman: So it's been two years since Apropos was released. How have things changed since October of 2014?
Derek Mauger: Two years ago we were essentially a brand new band. 3 of our original members had left the band due to family, school or work reasons so Ben and I were left to decide if we wanted to carry on. We felt like we had more to do - including release Apropos - so we enlisted James Wadsworth for drums and Brandon Zolman for bass and off we went. Two years on, it really feels like we have come into our own with this line up.
EA Poorman: Do you feel like this is where HGD is supposed to be now?
Derek Mauger: Absolutely. Even with a line up overhaul it really feels like we are still journeying down the same path we set out on 4 years ago. Rubber Nun doesn't feel like a re-hash of what we've done before but it feels right at home with everything else we have done.
EA Poorman: Let's talk about the new LP, Rubber Nun. First off, where did the name come from?
Derek Mauger: The name came out of nowhere while I was working on the song that became its namesake. Originally, it was just a nonsensical term that I was using to flesh out the melody but since then I have my own interpretation of what it means. I like hearing what other people think a Rubber Nun is. Some have metaphoric interpretations, but a lot of people just think it is some kind of sex toy. Both work.
EA Poorman: How long has the writing process been happening? Was this record conceived completely by the current crew?
Derek Mauger: 'Rubber Nun' is 100% the result of the current incarnation of Heaven's Gateway Drugs. Basically from the time James and Brandon came on board in the summer of 2014 we started working on new material and by that December we were in the studio working on the first batch of songs. The album was recording in 3 big chunks with that first session in December 2014, then 2 more sessions in the spring/summer of 2015. Typically, I bring a riff or some fragments of an idea to practice and the group builds the songs up from there. Brandon also does the same and a few times songs grew out of the noodling we all tend to do while we tune up for practice.
EA Poorman: Last time out Heaven's Gateway Drugs recorded at Temple Recording Studio, with mixing help from Jason Davis. This time though you guys holed up at Jason's Off The Cuff Sound recording studio and laid tracks down there. I imagine Jason Davis is a perfect fit for you guys. How was the experience working with him?
Derek Mauger: The first songs we ever recorded as Heaven's Gateway Drugs were with Jason Davis at Off The Cuff so returning to his studio for this album just felt right. By this point, Jason is basically a member of the band - he even sat in for a handful of shows last fall when James was on the injured list - so working with him is incredibly easy. Jason is also someone that we all have an immense amount of respect for, so when he gives us a suggestion we don't hesitate to try it out. Off The Cuff is our happy place. There's just a vibe there that is almost impossible to explain. It is a living museum of vintage equipment full of tube amps, tape machines, wonky old keyboards, there's even an echo chamber. Plus there's a hot tub.
EA Poorman: An echo chamber and a hot tub? Hot damn. Okay, so back to the album. So you've spent the last couple of years patiently writing and recording the new record. Now it's time to share the work. When is the album officially released? Where will the album be available to buy?
Derek Mauger: The album is available for pre-order right now through dizzybird records. When you pre-order the record, you also get access to the album digitally so you can load/stream it onto all your things. The records will ship out early September and our official release show is 9/9 at the Brass Rail. You will be able to get physical copies from us then and starting the next day you will be able to find copies at Neat Neat Neat Records in town.
EA Poorman: This time around HGD gets the vinyl treatment. That's gotta be a pretty great feeling to know you can spin your own tunes on the turntable. If any band needs to be enjoyed on vinyl, it's Heaven's Gateway Drugs.
Derek Mauger: Thanks! It was surreal when we finally got to sit down and listen to the test pressings. This is the first time any of us have ever had our music on a full length vinyl record.
EA Poorman: I can only imagine. So what's planned for the release show? You mentioned the Brass Rail?
Derek Mauger: Our release show is happening on September 9th at the Brass Rail. So far the plan for the evening is Streetlamps for Spotlights opening, then we will play the record start to finish followed by Joshua Elias who is going to DJ some 60's/70's soul/funk/psych jams. Jason Davis is the ringleader of Streetlamps so it seemed natural to ask him to join us and Josh was our former bass player and all around good time fun guy who happens to be an amazing DJ. Getting this album made was a huge undertaking so our goal for the night is to celebrate and party with all the people who helped make the record happen in one way or another. Not going to lie, really really really looking forward to dancing our asses off after our set. There will be a lot of surprises too.
EA Poorman: I know HGD have become road warriors over the last couple years, playing quite a few out of town gigs and converting folks everywhere you go. Will there be any extensive touring to promote this "rebirth" of an album?
Derek Mauger: So far the plan is to keep up our schedule of doing as many out of town weekends as possible through the end of the year. We definitely want to try to hit some new cities but really excited to go back to some venues where people have asked us for vinyl in the past and finally deliver them the goods.
EA Poorman: What's the rest of 2016 looking like for Heaven's Gateway Drugs? Converting as many souls as possible? Mass freakouts? World domination?
Derek Mauger: Always always always looking for converts. Always always always down for freakouts. The rest of 2016 is going to be a whirlwind of shows, including some festivals like Middle Waves here in Fort Wayne and playing with some of our favorite groups like the Flaming Lips (at the aforementioned Middle Waves), Morgan Delt up in Chicago, and some shows we have to keep hush-hush about until their secrets can be revealed. We will most likely hibernate at Off The Cuff during the winter months and record some new material. Then it's back on the road in 2017...
EA Poorman: Yes, Middle Waves. How did that come about. Sharing the bill with the Fearless Freaks themselves?
Derek Mauger: Wow for sure. We were approached by the guys in the booking committee in the weeks leading up to the big announcement party and thought it was some kind of practical joke. The Flaming Lips are easily one of our favorite bands and them here in Fort Wayne? And we get to play that weekend? Insane. But they assured us this was the real deal, then the hardest part was not immediately telling everyone we knew. Unreal and totally lucky that we get to be a part of the start of something really amazing happening in Fort Wayne.
Go see Heaven's Gateway Drugs September 9th at the Brass Rail and hear their amazing new album Rubber Nun live. Then grab a vinyl copy from HGD and tell them how much you dig their music. Don't forget you can grab a vinyl copy at NNN Records the next day for that friend that couldn't get off work.
And if you haven't yet, buy your ticket for Middle Waves Festival so you can see the HGD dudes tear it up, along with The Flaming Lips and some other amazing bands.